I think it’s time that we asked ourselves why plastic surgery has ever had a stigma, and how that stigma can coexist with a world that seems to always want us to look our best. After all, despite all the leaps and strides we’ve made in personal expression, we still have a long way to go. Women are still regularly looked down on for not wearing makeup when they go out, yet, when someone wants to make a more permanent change to alter something about their physical appearance with plastic surgery, it still feels like there’s a conversation worth having.
The fact is that more and more people are getting plastic surgery, with over 500,000 cosmetic procedures occurring in Australia in 2021 alone. In 2018, aesthetic CS accounted for 14.1% of all surgical procedures, and these are numbers that only increase as you get into other countries in which plastic surgery is more widely embraced, such as South Korea, Greece and Italy. It’s clear from all of this that people are going to get the procedures they want, and given the popularity of anti-wrinkle procedures and deep plane facelifts in Melbourne especially, this isn’t something that is simply a trend with influencers and younger demographics.
So, with all this in mind, why are more people pushing for the embrace of plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures?
The Psychological Benefits of Cosmetic Procedures
We are a long way into studying the ways in which our physical appearance impacts our psychological well-being. Study after study has shown the direct correlation between people’s improved self-perception in terms of attractiveness and reductions in anxiety, among other benefits. This is not surprising, given the general weight that we tend to place on aesthetics and beauty, but it’s also more complex than simply “looking good = feeling good”.
Self-Perception and Cosmetic Procedures
Many individuals suffer from issues with their internal self-perception, such as body dysmorphia, which can have a huge negative impact on their lives. According to the Cleveland Clinic, up to 2.9% of people outside the US experience BDD, and as much as we like to believe that the road to recovery is one of self-acceptance, for some people, this road is going to be an incredibly difficult one to walk.
Problems with self-perception are incredibly difficult and complex and can be shaped by so many social and environmental factors that are hard to account for across all cases. This is even before we get into situations in which individuals may experience gender dysphoria, another emotionally complex struggle that can have a huge impact on someone’s self-image and life as a whole.
If someone dealing with problems of self-image or self-identity can achieve a permanent or semi-permanent alleviation of those problems, then that is a fantastic opportunity. That said, it may not be the solution for everyone, and there have been cases in which cosmetic procedures have been used for less-than-altruistic reasons, such as coercion which can occur in the entertainment industry.
There have also been many studies and academic studies going back decades into the social pressures which can lead to plastic surgery feeling necessary. Nevertheless, these situations in which plastic surgery or cosmetic procedures may not be the ideal course of action do not have any sway on the value that plastic surgery can have on people simply looking to better their lives.
A Shift in Perspective
One of the main issues that come with the acceptance of plastic surgery as a normal part of some people’s lives is that cosmetic procedures are simply far broader a topic than many people give them credit for. A cosmetic procedure can be as simple as a lip filler or as complex as facial reconstruction surgery. When we use broad overarching terms, we can often conflate actions with their far more complex counterparts, and this can lead to anxieties that simply do not need to be there.
Additionally, just as people have a lot of weight placed on their own self-perception, beauty is also a topic that many people just have a difficult time reckoning with when it comes to our sociological understanding of it. It’s easy for us to bring more baggage than we maybe would like to admit into how we see the efforts of others to alter their appearance, whether it be a lip filler or how much makeup they’re wearing.
Our problems with plastic surgery speak to a deeper issue with the contradiction between our expectations of others and our unwillingness to allow people to meet those expectations on their own terms. We want for people to be comfortable with who they are, yet we often stifle their methods of achieving that when they don’t directly align with our views. So, when we ask if it’s time for us to let go of the plastic surgery stigma, it’s a question of whether we should let go of judgement for people who would much rather just get on with their lives than try to explain themselves for making decisions about their appearance.
We have come a long way in allowing people the freedom to express themselves how they see fit, but we still have strides to make. However, the point of all of this is to say that there are many positive reasons that people seek out cosmetic procedures, and if you are someone that wants to take that next step, you should not be made to feel judged for doing so. So, make healthy decisions, and take time to consider whether it’s the right path for you.
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